A young man’s determination to recover the lyrics and music to a song he loved in his childhood in an exploration of widely variant perceptions of reality. Akira is haunted by a “bouncing ball” song that he remembers his mother singing when he was a small child, and now on the verge of a sexually active adulthood, he wants to find the origins of the song. He ostensibly wanders into a time-warp in which aspects from his childhood and adulthood mix together. In this never-never land he comes across a beautiful woman/witch who is lost inside the labyrinth of her mansion, just as the young man is lost in the labyrinth of time — and on some levels, perhaps the labyrinth of his subconscious.
A near-masterpiece from the legendary Japanese avant-garde artist Shuji Terayama, 40 minutes long and originally included in a French movie package Private Collections, the other two films of which were directed by Walerian Borowczyk and Just Jaeckin. Grass Labyrinth, apart from featuring cult comedy director Juzo Itami in a small role, is also blessed with J. A. Saezer’s lullabyish soundtrack which sometimes also consists of heartbeats played along with a recording of someone breathing.
Grass Labyrinth is, like most of Terayama’s works, self-reflective and filled with many references to his childhood. Leitmotifs from his other films are present here as well, such as windmills, bridal headdresses worn by his overprotective mother, the attractive/nymphomaniac neighboring girl whom the protagonist’s mother forbids him to see, Oedipal complex, the father who’s also a naval officer, circus freaks, the protagonist getting forcefully “seduced” by a woman, etc. It has the most similarities to his movie Pastoral: To Die in the Country, so I guess you could call this one Pastoral 2.0.
The protagonist in this movie travels the land to find the lyrics to a lullaby his mother may have sang to him. Of course, knowing Terayama, this journey becomes a psycho-sexual, surreal voyage through space and time filled with eroticism, symbolism and strange landscapes. All of this culminates in the final, adrenaline-ridden scene where the hero faces off against aforementioned freaks.
Grass Labyrinth is ultimately a movie with some unforgettable imagery; round “pregnancy stones” which turn sterile women fertile, a man fondling a naked woman with a calligraphed body on a seashore, the hero watching children play in a barren desert. I’d call it a film of its kind, but Terayama can produce much weirder stuff, so this is where I end things.
Director: Shûji Terayama
Writers: Kyoka Izumi (story), Rio Kishida, Shûji Terayama
Stars: Hiroshi Mikami, Takeshi Wakamatsu, Keiko Niitaka
Countries of origin: Japan, France
Also known as: Tarladaki Labirent.
Format : Matroska
Format version : Version 4
File size : 746 MiB
Duration : 40 min 12 s
Overall bit rate : 2 595 kb/s